Everett Home Depot worker Jeffrey Raven Leonard, 52, holds a certificate that names him a Kentucky Colonel, an honor from the governor of Kentucky. He received the award, given to 4,000 to 5,000 people annually, for getting the word out about a hiring program for veterans at Home Depot. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Everett Home Depot worker Jeffrey Raven Leonard, 52, holds a certificate that names him a Kentucky Colonel, an honor from the governor of Kentucky. He received the award, given to 4,000 to 5,000 people annually, for getting the word out about a hiring program for veterans at Home Depot. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

This Kentucky Colonel works at Home Depot, not a fried chicken stand

Jeffrey Raven Leonard, 52, of Everett, joins thousands of other colonels honored for good deeds by the governor of Kentucky.

EVERETT — The email that came into The Daily Herald newstips mailbox was finger-licking odd.

“I was recently named a Kentucky Colonel by the Honorable Andy Beshear, Governor of Kentucky,” it read. “I’m a resident of Everett.”

What’s up with that?

Everett is seven states, 2,400 miles and a 36-hour drive away from the capital of Kentucky (which is Frankfort, by the way, not Louisville).

The sender, Jeffrey Raven Leonard, is an Everett Home Depot worker who now joins the ranks of thousands of other honorary Colonels, including Kentucky restaurateur Harland Sanders, who used his title to sell fried chicken.

The award commissioned by the governor grants the use of “the Honorable” before his name and bragging rights, at least in Kentucky, where people know that this colonel title is not about 11 herbs and spices.

“Nobody here knows what this is,” Leonard said. “People say, ‘Oh, KFC.’ I told my boss and he was like, ‘What?’ My wife urged me to contact the local paper saying there was a Kentucky Colonel in the area.”

Kentucky Colonel, the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is given to civilians for “noteworthy accomplishments, contributions to civil society, remarkable deeds, or outstanding service to the community, state, or a nation,” according to the website.

Most recipients are everyday people making a difference in their worlds.

Leonard, 52, who served 8 years in the Navy, was nominated by a friend for his initiative to get the word out about Home Depot programs for veterans. He is a customer experience manager at the store on Highway 99, making sure shoppers are happy.

“He reached out to military bases to tell them about the work he does at Home Depot and how he believed it to be a good fit for him after the military,” said Gabe Soltero, Home Depot program manager for military relations in Atlanta. “It makes our job easier. He is one of our vanguard of contacts in the Pacific Northwest to tell them about opportunities at Home Depot.”

A Kentucky connection is not required to get the honor. Race car drivers, singers, actors, authors, politicians, chefs, comedians and a couple Popes are among the 400,000-plus Kentucky Colonels commissioned in the last 200-plus years. Some famous names include Johnny Depp, Dolly Parton, Tiger Woods, John Lennon, Jennifer Lawrence, the Smothers Brothers and “Jeopardy” whiz Ken Jennings.

“Muhammad Ali is in there,” Leonard said. “I’m humbled by it.”

It’s easy to nominate someone (like maybe your favorite journalist). Just go online to the site, kycolonels.org.

The 12-by-16-inch certificate names Jeffrey Raven Leonard a Kentucky Colonel, an honor from the governor of Kentucky. Leonard, of Everett, received the award for getting the word out about a hiring program for veterans at Home Depot. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

The 12-by-16-inch certificate names Jeffrey Raven Leonard a Kentucky Colonel, an honor from the governor of Kentucky. Leonard, of Everett, received the award for getting the word out about a hiring program for veterans at Home Depot. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Two Kentucky state employees in the governor’s office review the applications to either approve or deny nominations. Honorees receive official 12-by-16-inch certificates.

A nonprofit organization, The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, takes it from there, getting the list and sending welcoming letters to summon colonels to join together for philanthropic and social purposes.

“The title goes back to 1813, with the first governor of the Commonwealth,” director Colonel Sherry Crose said.

Most don’t take it as far as Harland Sanders.

“He is an actual Kentucky Colonel, that’s where he got the Colonel Sanders. I guess he parlayed that honorary title pretty well, didn’t he?” Crose said.

About 4,000 to 5,000 new Kentucky Colonels are commissioned annually.

“We have colonels from 50 states and 59 countries,” Crose said. “People like to meet other colonels. I think of it as a college alumni association. Every colonel I met certainly has some kind of giving heart.”

In Kentucky, there are homecoming weekends, bourbon tastings and Kentucky Derby parties. They raise money for charities, as do members of about 20 chapters east of the Mississippi, and in Hong Kong, Switzerland and Canada. Leonard and Ken Jennings might have to start a PNW chapter.

Crose said there are 468 Kentucky Colonels in the state of Washington.

“This week I signed welcome letters to members of the Pearl Jam group,” she said. “Pretty cool.”

Leonard hails from Southern Indiana, across the Ohio River from Kentucky. He’s a sixth generation Hoosier. So he’d heard of Kentucky Colonels and even knew one, his ex-father-in-law.

“Everybody knows about it in Indiana,” he said.

Before moving to Washington, he lived in Texas and worked for Home Depot, where he courted, as he put it, “a good-looking woman” named Amy. The couple transferred to the Everett store in 2021 and got married.

Leonard received the official Kentucky Colonel certificate earlier this month.

“It arrived in my mailbox and I was like, ‘Holy cow!’” he said. “My wife started chuckling. I go by Raven. She said, ‘Oh, look, Kentucky Fried Raven.’”

Is there a person, place or thing making you wonder “What’s Up With That?” Contact reporter Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.

Talk to us

More in Local News

News logo for use with stories about Mill Creek in Snohomish County, WA.
Mill Creek house fire leaves 1 dead

The fire was contained to a garage in the 15300 block of 25th Drive SE. A person was found dead inside.

Firefighters respond to a house fire Wednesday morning in the 3400 block of Broadway. (Everett Fire Department)
3 hospitalized in critical condition after Everett house fire

Firefighters rescued two people, one of whom uses a wheelchair, from the burning home in the 3400 block of Broadway.

The Walmart Store on 11400 Highway 99 on March 21, 2023 in in Everett, Washington. The retail giant will close the store on April 21, 2023. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
Walmart announces Everett store on Highway 99 will close on April 21

The Arkansas-based retail giant said the 20-year-old Walmart location was “underperforming financially.”

Michael Tolley (Northshore School District)
Michael Tolley named new Northshore School District leader

Tolley, interim superintendent since last summer, is expected to inherit the position permanently in July.

Logo for news use, for stories regarding Washington state government — Olympia, the Legislature and state agencies. No caption necessary. 20220331
New forecast show state revenues won’t be quite as robust as expected

Democratic budget writers say they will be cautious but able to fund their priorities. Senate put out a capital budget Monday.

Everett Memorial Stadium and Funko Field on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Drive to build new AquaSox ballpark gets $7.4M boost from state

The proposed Senate capital budget contains critical seed money for the city-led project likely to get matched by the House.

Brenda Mann Harrison
Encounters with a tow truck driver and a dentist

The value of local journalism shows up in unexpected conversations.

Steve Klein moves some of his glasswork into place as fellow guest curator Meg Holgate watches during installation of A Precarious Edge at Schack Art Center on Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Exhibits shine light on natural beauty on the edge of loss

Artists worried about climate change work ‘for future generations’

A vehicle makes an unprotected left turn on a flashing yellow arrow at the intersection of Highway 9 and Highway 530 on Wednesday, March 22, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Reader: Arlington highway intersection signal change confusing

At the city’s request, the state changed the left-turn sequence. An Arlington reader said drivers are jumping the queue.

Most Read